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Fresno EOC’s Sanctuary and Youth Services and its partners made spirits bright this year in Fresno for students at Lowell Elementary School in Fresno, CA. This marks the 23rd annual Making Spirits Bright event to spread holiday cheer to low income families by providing them with gifts, stockings, a festive meal, a Christmas tree, and an opportunity to visit and take photos with Santa.

“Our committed staff and generous community partners work together to make an unforgettable experience for these families to celebrate the holiday season,” said Michelle L. Tutunjian, Fresno EOC Sanctuary Director. “Seeing the joy of the children and the appreciation of the families is what makes Making Spirits Bright so special.”

Lowell Elementary was selected because students and parents are faced with many academic, social, and emotional challenges. Lowell Elementary is designated as a Safe Place site for youth in crisis. Lowell Elementary is located in the downtown area and has one of the highest concentration of poverty in the city of Fresno with 2.7% of students separated from families and being raised by foster parents or grandparents. 48% of Lowell students are English Language Learners whose primary language is Spanish, Hmong, or Lao. Despite these challenges, Lowell students continue to make great strides towards academic success. 

“We appreciate the support from the community with this wonderful event. Working together, we will make sure that our neediest students have a great Christmas,” said Miguel Naranjo, Lowell Elementary Principal.

Recognizing Making Spirits Bright VolunteersSanctuary’s Making Spirits Bright event brings together Fresno’s businesses and community groups working together to serve others. The 2016 partners included: PG&E, Macy’s Fashion Fair and River Park, USDA Forest Service-Sierra National Forest, London Properties, and Anthem Blue Cross of California.

Since the program’s inception in 1993, Making Spirits Bright has reached 691 families (including 2,350 children) residing in Fresno County. Each year a new Fresno County elementary school is selected as the hosting site. Prior years have included sites hosted at: Lincoln Elementary – Fresno Unified School District (2015), Laton Elementary/Conejo Middle – Laton Unified School District (2014), Bakman Elementary – Fresno Unified School District (2013), Eric White Elementary – Selma Unified School District (2012), Connor Elementary – Kings Canyon Unified School District (2011) and many more. 

About Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services 

Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services provides a variety of programs to meet the needs of youth and families. Some of the services include the Sanctuary Youth Shelter providing emergency shelter and crisis intervention services to runaway and homeless youth ages 12-17 years old (18 if still in high school), Transitional Living Centers for young adults, ages 16–24, and Drop-In Centers for runaway homeless youth. In addition, Sanctuary operates a Safe Place program providing youth in need with access to immediate help through a network of 271 Safe Place sites throughout Fresno County. All Fresno Unified School District campuses are designed as Safe Place sites. For more information visit:


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